The Court has a duty to divide property equally in kind, and where that is not possible, to determine the extent and value of the community estate so the Court can equally divide the property. As attorneys, we often settle these issues – and the best way to determine the value of a real property parcel is to hire an appraiser to do the valuation.
Often, clients think “appraiser” and cringe at the possible cost; in reality, a real property appraiser is one of the most reasonably priced experts in any family law case. Most appraisals of residential real property run between $450-$550 per appraisal. Even commercial properties can be appraised for very little more than that. This is far, far less expensive than having attorneys send letters back and forth, back and forth, about what the property should be worth.
Many times, we find our client (or opposing party) has property that was acquired before marriage, and that raises several questions which involve, first, some work from the attorney. A title search is relatively easy to pull in this age of information (in Southern California, anyway; North Dakota, not so much). We look for proof the house was owned before marriage; the date the house was put into both spouse’s names (if that occurred); and other information vital to ensuring we have all necessary facts at hand to get our client a good result.
Just because you put your spouse’s name on the title doesn’t mean he/she will be entitled to half the equity in the home – many times the new title holder doesn’t get much at all (and occasionally, nothing at all). Each case is different when dealing with real property, with titles, and mortgage paydowns. Each case turns on its own facts. Experienced counsel can ensure your property rights are protected and enforced. Whether as part of your divorce you want to stay in the home, sell your interest to the other party, or just plain sell the property, you need an experienced family law attorney to ensure you get the best possible return on the real property – because that is, in the majority of cases, the single largest asset the parties have accumulated together.